Today, I’m going to share with you my number one, most true parenting truth you’ve ever heard. It will change your life.
Last night, my son asked me to wake him up early, even though school started an hour later and he could sleep in. I reminded him of that fact, and he resisted. It’s like his go-to move: did Mom say something? She’s wrong. Whatever it is. Because she is the parent and she literally could fill thousands of pages with the blankness of what she does not know. Mom could not possibly know anything about late start and sleeping in.
I shrugged. “Okay, dude, but I’m not getting up at the crack of dawn just to shag your tail out of bed.” Since kids have been forced to care about their education or whatever, alarm clocks have been a thing, and he has both knowledge of and proximity to such devices.
When I did open my eyes this morning, and saw that he wasn’t (quelle surprise!) awake yet, my husband went to rouse him, and dear darling husband was treated to surly man-boy rebukes. The kid wanted to know how we could deign to wake him early. EARLY?! When everyone, including the dumb dogs, knows it’s late start day. Gah. Don’t you people know anything?
No. We don’t. Obviously.
Now I’ve got the Grumpmaster General on duty and he is not having any of this day. When it’s time to go, I say “Hey, yo. Time to go.” Totally neutral. Parents learn to keep the fear out of our voices. It’s survival. This time, he circled back around to how we didn’t wake him early enough to get in even five minutes of video games before school.
We are monsters.
I texted my friend evidence of my parental failures:
“I didn’t wake him early enough, but I woke him too early and I didn’t tell him when breakfast was over even though I did tell him.”
She said, “It’s our screw ups that force them to think independently…”
I defended myself: “Except I didn’t screw up. He just doesn’t like my answers. Which is also my fault. For having dumb answers.”
And here is the parental truth, straight from my friend:
I love how you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you do know the answer, it’s probably not the correct answer. Even it it’s right, it’s stupid, and it’s your fault. If you don’t know the answer you’re flat out neglectful.
I know my kids love me and respect me. I know. too, that these outbursts come from wacky places of pre-teen or teen insecurity. I realize they’re trying on personality traits and looking to distinguish their voices as unique. And frankly, the reality of our morning situation was comical to me.
I knew no matter what I said, I was going to be wrong. Because of course, he wasn’t mad about missing breakfast or sleeping in or not sleeping in. He was mad because it’s his first week at a new school and anger can be a really obvious mask for fear.
I don’t always respond with as much grace as I did today, but I know what’s (some of what’s) going on his mind, and I could practically see his anxiety about making friends and getting to the right rooms at the right time.
Parents, you are going to be wrong. A lot. Wrong in his eyes, and certainly empirically wrong. It’s okay. It’s better to see what he’s failing to hide than to assert all the rightness in the world.